Four NCAA Div. III championships
TUCSON, ARIZ.—Central College ran its softball winning streak to eight games Friday before again finding misfortune in extra innings.
The Dutch ran wild against Dickinson (Pa.) in a 13-1, six-inning romp but were outlasted by Concordia (Texas) 2-1 in eight innings. Central, 9-5, is 0-2 in extra-inning games and 1-5 in contests decided by two runs or less.
Just as in the other narrow decisions, the Dutch were left bemoaning some missed opportunities, yet even in defeat, coach George Wares saw distinct signs of progress on the ninth day of the team’s spring-break journey.
“We played better than we did in the Leadoff Classic (last weekend in Georgia),” Wares said. “It was very good softball against a very good opponent that played even better than it has been. We’re doing enough to get in position to win against good teams but we’re just not getting the big play when we need it.”
The Concordia loss overshadowed yet another sparkling pitching effort by young hurlers Mallory Schulenberg (sophomore, Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius X HS) and Kelsey Stender (freshman, Belle Plaine, Minn.). Schulenberg threw the first 3.1 innings, allowing three hits and one walk, which was intentional, while striking out three. After Schulenberg gave up a run in the fourth inning, Stender (3-3) came in and fired four innings of hitless ball, but suffered the hard-luck defeat via the international tiebreaker, with each team starting the eighth inning with a runner on second base. Concordia (11-6) got the winning run following a sacrifice and infield grounder. Stender walked four batters—three intentionally—and struck out four.
“Kelsey and Mallory both pitched extremely well,” Wares said.
Central outhit Concordia 7-3, but stranded 11 baserunners, including seven in the first three innings. Second baseman Abbey Strajack (sophomore, Davenport, Assumption HS) singled and eventually scored in the first inning after the Dutch loaded the bases, then turned a missed squeeze bunt attempt into a triple-steal. But with runners on second and third and still no outs, Central couldn’t coax another run home.
Central had baserunners in all but one inning and had runners on first and third with no outs in the eighth, only to come up empty. They were stymied by a double play on a line drive, yet still made a bid for a two-out run when first baseman Katie Canney (sophomore, Adel, ADM HS) belted a double to right-center. Shortstop Annie Sarcone (junior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) tried to score from first base but was gunned down at home by a perfect relay from the outfield.
Sarcone and Strajack each had two hits in the game. Sarcone was on base four times as she also drew two walks.
“It’s not like we’re a bad hitting team,” Wares said. “We’re just not getting the clutch hits. If we’d had anybody come through with a big hit in the first inning, the game might have been over.
“We also made a couple of pretty serious baserunning mistakes but all of our mistakes are correctable.”
Pitchers Brie Haycraft (junior, Eldridge, North Scott HS) and Courtney Meyer (freshman, Newton) combined on a two-hitter in the opener. Haycraft retired the first nine hitters in order, then walked the leadoff hitter in the fourth and Meyer entered, allowing the runner to score an unearned tally. Haycraft (2-1) walked one and struck out one while Meyer picked up her first collegiate save, yielding two hits and a walk in three innings.
Central had eight hits but also profited from seven walks, two wild pitches, a passed ball and three errors by Dickinson (4-5).
“I thought Brie and Courtney showed some progress,” Wares said. “The other thing was we were again able to give a lot of other players a chance to play, as well as rest some others.”
Sarcone drove in three runs with a bases-loaded triple and Meyer chased her sister Caitlyn Meyer (senior, Newton) home on an unlikely two-run, inside-the-park home run. Courtney Meyer belted a deep shot that landed at the base of the center-field fence. The home plate umpire erroneously thought the ball had cleared the fence and signaled home run. Meyer, unsure of the ruling, was sprinting around the bases before finally breaking into a home run trot, shortly before the center fielder fired the ball to the cutoff. With the relay throw heading home, Meyer scampered home as well and slid across the plate just ahead of the tag. After an extended discussion, the umpires let the play stand.
Central closes its multi-time zone trip Saturday, taking on NAIA Judson (Ill.) at 1:30 p.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) before a rematch with Trinity (Texas) at 3:30 p.m. Central defeated Trinity Thursday, 5-0.
An audio webcast of Central’s first game Saturday can be heard via www.kniakrls.com starting at approximately 3:30 p.m. (Iowa Time). Updates on Saturday’s second game can be accessed through the Central athletics Twitter feed, @CentralDutch.
Photo courtesy of Scott Haycraft